Small family cars: the top 10

* 17,200 motorists polled * 104 models reviewed * 27 manufacturers tested...

Small family cars: the top 10

Budget-branded cars prove that cheap can also be a cheerful experience for owners: step forward the Kia Cee'd.

1 Kia Cee'd

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 83.8%
Overall 4th
We'd be lying if we said we saw this one coming. Yes, the Cee'd is a great-value small family car, but for owners to rate it the finest small family car in this year's survey and fourth overall is testament to just how much Kia has improved its cars in recent years.

Owners couldn't speak highly enough of the Cee'd. They liked the way it looks inside and out and were impressed with cabin space, both in the front and in the rear. The excellent seats and easy-to-use stereo system also received higher scores than any other car in the class.

Running costs were low, the mechanicals were rock-solid and Kia's seats and bodywork seemed to be virtually indestructible. Better still, owners liked the sharp steering and the attitude of Kia staff when taking their Cee'd for servicing.Overall, a stunning debut result.

2=: BMW 1 Series

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 82.4%
Overall 11th=
BMW's best result in this year's survey was due largely to the way the 1 Series drives. Owners loved its responsive steering, powerful brakes, rapid acceleration and great-sounding engines. With clean and comfortable waiting areas, BMW dealerships also scored highly although 1 Series owners had to visit them more than they'd like, often because of uneven tyre wear and shifting floor mats.

On the plus side, stereo and sat-nav systems were extremely reliable.

2=: Skoda Octavia

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 82.4%
Overall 11th=
Last year's class winner actually finishes with a better overall score than in 2009, but the competition is much fiercer this time around. Owners were gushing about the Octavia's strong motorway overtaking, practical boot and low servicing and repair costs. Reliability was a mixed bag: the Skoda's brakes proved dependable but a high number of radio reception issues were reported.

Overall, though, the Octavia is a strong package with no major weakness.

4: Honda Civic

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 82.0%
Overall 18th=
The Civic's reliability as a whole was average, but owners experienced an unusually high number of handbrake issues and battery failures. Other areas of the car fared much better. Only Volvo C30 owners were more glowing about their cars' exterior styling, and the Civic's cabin particularly the dashboard was even more popular. Owners thought servicing charges were very fair. They liked the Honda's sharp steering, too.

5: Volkswagen Jetta

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 81.6%
Overall 21st
The Jetta is essentially a Golf saloon, but JD Power respondents found it much more reliable than its hatchback brother. They reported fewer problems with the car's brakes, steering and interior than those of any other car in this class, and other parts of the Jetta proved almost as dependable.

Low running costs also played a huge part in the VW's success, with owners raving about its cheap fuel bills and low insurance premiums. Better-than-average dealer service would have secured an even higher score.

6: Volvo C30

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 81.3%
Overall 23rd=
If JD Power was all about appeal, the C30 would have won this class at a canter. Owners simply loved the look of the Volvo both inside and out and couldn't speak highly enough of its high-quality seats, excellent heating and ventilation system, and smooth gearchange. Other than a few seat problems, reliability was impressive, too, with hardly any exterior faults reported.

Why only sixth place? Well, the C30's boot got a big thumbs-down, and service and repair costs were too high.

7: MercedesBenz AClass

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 81.2%
Overall 25th
If you want outstanding service with your small family car, buy an A-Class. Owners gave Merc dealers top marks in the class for nearly every aspect of service, including the quality of service advisors, how quickly the work was completed and the convenience of parking at dealerships. Other than a few glitches with tyre-pressure monitors, reliability was also impressive throughout.

The A-Class would have finished even higher in the table if its engines had been stronger and running costs more reasonable, said owners.

8: Volkswagen Golf

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 80.6%
Overall 35th=
Consistent scores across the board ensure a top-half finish for the Golf. Reliability was no better than average, but the VW did score decent marks for its responsive steering, swift acceleration, silky gearchange and low running costs. Owners also praised the Golf's sturdy-sounding doors, roomy cabin and comfortable seats.

9: Audi A3

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 80.5%
Overall 37th=
The A3 shares most of its oily bits with the VW Golf, so it's no surprise the two cars received an almost identical overall score. However, many of the Audi's points were racked up in different areas of the survey. Owners were less impressed with its high servicing and repair costs, but were more complimentary about dealer service and the A3's quieter and classier interior.

Its strong overtaking ability and effective suspension also earned it high marks.

10: Toyota Auris

Vehicle owner satisfaction score 79.3%
Overall 53rd=
A mixed bag of scores means the Auris finishes mid-way down the table - both in the small family car class and the overall leaderboard. Owners reported very few bodywork problems and were generally positive about Toyota dealers. Low fuel consumption was rated above average for the class, too.

However, owners panned the Auris's weedy acceleration and notchy gearchange. Noisy brakes were also a problem and visibility from the driver's seat was rated below average.